The modern period in the history of Andaman and Nicobar began only in 1789, when the British East India Company began their first penal settlement here.
Before this, no chronological history of these islands is available. But we can find some historical and mythological evidence and references upon which the pre-modern period may be formed without conjecture.
As these islands fell on the ancient trade route between Indian and South East Asia, the trading ships would certainly need to anchor near these islands for shelter during stormy weather and for replenish water.
There are so many theories about the origin of these islands and advent of man here. We get some references from Ramayana, the older epic of India Lord Rama wanted to Bridge the sea, in order to recover Sita, who have been abducted by King Ravana of Lanka. This led to the association of the islands calling the inhabitants Handuman. It is from here that the name ‘Andaman’ is derived.
According to another theory, the name Andaman owes its origin to the Malays, who have known the islands from time immemorial. Since the Islands provided them with slaves. They used to sail across the seas, capture some of the aborigines and give them away as slaves in trade. The Malays called the area ‘the islands of Handuman’, because that is how they pronounced the name of Hanuman in the Ramayana, and the name of Handuman eventually became ‘Andaman’ whatever may have been the original name of the islands. It continued to be referred to as such with slight phonetic difference by the numerous travelers who touched the shores of these islands from second to sixteenth century. Consequently, the name used by the Malay’s struck of these Islands.
Ptolemy, who lived in Alexandria, a geographer of Roman Empire of second Century mentioned the Agmatae or Aginae as one of the islands groups in the Indian Ocean. However he describes these islands as ‘Islands of the Cannibals’ and ‘The Islands of Fortune’.
The first recorded reference to these islands is found in the monumental work ‘Badhisattavanda Kalpata’ by Kshendra, the Kashmiri poet who related how once Emperor Ashoka the Great, seated on the throne in Pataliputra in 3rd Century B.C. was approached by some Indian Merchants who complained to him of their losses and complete ruin brought out by ‘Black Savages’ when they passed through these Islands.
The next reference to these islands is found in the writing of I’Tsing, the Chinese traveler who sailing on a Persian ship, started on a voyage to India in 671 AD. He referred to these islands as ‘The islands of Cannibals’, which he called the ‘Andaban’ and, Yang- t’amang or the ‘Land of the Naked’ respectively. He gave vivid descriptions of the place. He described the transaction with the Tribals, involving the barter of Coconut for iron.
Then came two Arab travelers who also it seems, did not actually visit any of the Andaman group of Islands. Their account was translated in the 18th Century by Abbe Renaudot the French Priest. The Arabs had perhaps actually undertaken their travels some time in the 870s. Describing these islands and their people they wrote, “The people who inhabit the coast, eat human flesh, absolutely raw”. They are dark and have fuzzy hair frightful faces and eyes; enormous feet almost elbow length, and they go about ‘naked’. They have no boats and they would be eating all passers by those could get hold of.
In the history of T’ang Dynasty of China (619-916 AD) there are references of ‘Land of the Rakhsas’.
We get the authentic and detailed account of the Andamans from the writing of two Arab travelers of the ninth century A.D. namely Abu Zaid Hasan and Sulaiman. It is agreed by all that the islands called by them ‘Najabalus’ are to be identified with the Andamans. Their accounts have been translated’ as follows-
“The islands called Najabalus are with pretty well people. Both the men and the women there go naked, except that the women conceal their private parts with leaves of trees… Beyond these two islands lie the sea of Andaman. The people on the coast eat human flesh quite raw, their complexion in black, their hair frizzled, their feet are very large, and almost a cubit in length, and they quite naked… When ships have been kept back by contrary winds, they are often in these seas and obliged to drop anchor on this barbarous coast for the sake of water. When they have expended their stock, and upon these occasions they commonly lose some of their men. 
In the Tanjore inscriptions of 1050 AD these islands are called ‘Timative’ which means the islands of ‘impurity’.
In 1290 AD Marco Polo, who visited the Andamans on his way to China, refers to the Islands as Angamanian. He gives the following account: ‘Angamanian is a very large Island. The people are without a king and are idolaters and no better than wild beast. All the men of this island have head like dogs and teeth and eyes likewise. In fact in the face they are all just like big mastiff dogs… They are most cruel generations and eat everybody that they can catch if not of their own race. They live in flesh and rice and milk and have fruits different from any of ours.

Few European travelers also have left some accounts of the Andamans: In 1322 AD Friar Odoric calls the people dog faced, cannibals, also traders etc.
In 1440 AD Nicolo Conti mentions the Andaman as ‘Andamania’, which he explains as ‘Island of Gold’ as by this time it was rumoured that gold is available there. He also regarded them as cannibals. Travelers, when taken by these cannibals are torn to pieces and devoured by these cruel savages. He had followed the roads and routes of the east from Damascus to Indo-China during the year 1414-39 AD.
The myth continued till even as late as the 1625, because Master Caesar Frederike, who published his Eighteen yeer’s Indian observation in the year, that wrote-
From Necubar to Pegu is, as it were a row or chain of an infinite numbers of islands of which many are inhabited with wild people, and they call those islands the Islands of Andaman and they call their people savages or wild because they eat one another, also these islands have war with one another, and if by evil chance any ship be lost on those islands. As many have been, there’s not one man of these ships lost there that escaped uneaten or unstain. These people have not any acquaintance with any other people, neither have they trade with any but live only of such fruits as those islands yield.
Friar Odoric in the fourteen century, Nicolo Conti in the fifteenth century, Caeser Fredrick in the sixteenth and Captain Alexander Hamilton at the beginning of the eighteenth century seem similarly to have relied on imagination rather than observation in their account of these inhabitants. They were convinced that the Islands were peopled by the most savages or cannibals.

Nicobar Islands: The origin of the Nicobar appears to be some what less mysterious because throughout the historical times the Nicobar Islands have often been referred to as the ‘Land of the Naked People’ in the accounts of the voyagers. I’ Tsing describes them Lo-Jen-Kuo, which means, “Land of the Naked people”, Ptolemy was more clear about Nicobars then the Andamans. ‘Nagadipa and Barussa’ a group of five islands mentioned by him can be identified with Nicobar and Teressa group of Islands in Central Nicobar. According to him the people of these islands had tails. Perhaps the customs of wearing a strip of cloth by the Nicobarese, which hands down from the posteriors of their body led him to the above belief.
The Arab travelers while going to china came to Nicobar in 851 AD, called them ‘Lakhabalus’ or ‘Najabulus’ which was perhaps a man transcription of some from of Nicobar because it also means ‘land of the naked’. The Tanjore inscription of 1050 AD, describe the conquest of ‘Karadipa’ and ‘Nagadipa’ respectively by Rajendra II, the great Chola ruler. These names may have been used for Car Nicobar and Great Nicobar. They are mentioned as Nakkavaram, which translates as ‘Land of the Naked’.
The Tanjore inscription of 1050 AD, describe the conquest of ‘Kardipa, and Nagadipa’ respectively by Rajendra II. The Great Nicobar are mentioned as Nakkavaram, which translates as ‘Land of the Naked’.
Dr. S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar has described the century when these were conquered by Chola kings and they were known to Cholas as ‘Kardipa’ and ‘Nagadipa’ respectively.
There is also one popular saying about the nomenclature of Andaman and Nicobar was that during the Cholas occupation of these islands, the soldiers went for search of some valuable medicinal plants. Indeed on the way they found some beautiful deer’s. One among them told ‘Andhamaan Nikidipar, which it means ‘look at the deer’s standing’. This saying among Tamils gradually developed and spelled as ‘Andaman’ ‘Nicobar’.
Marco Polo’s ‘Necuveran’ (AD 1292)) Rashiduddin’s ‘Nakawaram’ (AD 1300) and Friar Odoric’s ‘Nicoveran’ (AD 1322) are obviously lineal ancestors of 15th and 16th century Portuguese ‘Nacabar’ and Nicubar and the modern day ‘Nicobar’ is derived.
The Portugese pioneers tried to spread the Christian faith, but there are few records of their activities.
In 1556, Captain Fredrick touched the shores of one of the Nicobar Islands. After him, many years later in 1601 (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I) Sir James Lancaster, who was on his way to the spice islands in command of an east Indian company ship, paid a visit to these islands. Domenic Fernandez, a Spanish missionary, who visited the Nicobars during his voyages in 1669 repeat the same erroneous impression.
During a voyages round the world is 1688, Captain Alexander Dampier faced a mutiny of his sailors nears the shores of Nicobars. Before sailing for Sumatra in an indigenous canoe he lived with his few companions for some days at Nicobar. He was the first visitor of these islands, who correctly described the people as harmless. According to him they lived under government equal without any distinction, everyman ruling in his own house. Captain Weldom who was at Camorta told Dampier that two Jesuits were staying in that island for propagating their faith.  
Conclusion :- If we keep aside the exaggeration and unscientific conjectures of all these accounts, we can easily form a beautiful picturesque of the Land and People of the past of our Andaman and Nicobar Islands.


1. R.C Mazumder- ‘The Penal Settlement in Andaman’ (Ministry of Education and Social Welfare, Government of India New Delhi, 1975).
2. N. Iqbal Singh- ‘The Andaman Story’ (Vikash Publishing House, Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, Bombay, Knapur 1978)
3. Kiran Dhingra- ‘A Andaman and Nicobar in the 20th Century’: A Gazette, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005)
4. L.P. Mathur- ‘Kalapani’ History of Andaman Nicobar Islands with a study of India’s Freedom Struggle’ (Oriental Publication & Exporters 124 Chanderlok, Enclave, Pitampura Delhi, 110034 (India January, 1985)
5. S.N. Agarwal- ‘The Heroes of Cellular Jail’ (Publication Bureau, Punjab University, Patiala 15 Dec. 1994)
6. M.V. Portman: ‘A History of our relations with the Andamans’ (London 1899).
7. R.V.R. Murthy: ‘Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ (Development and Decentralisation) (Mittal Publications New Delhi (INDIA), 2005.
8. Selection from the Government of India, Records Vol. 77.
9. Captain Dampier: ‘A collection of Voyages round the world.
10. Sir Henry Yule, ‘The Book of Sir Marco-Polo 2 Vols, 3rd Ed. John Murray London 1903.  

- Ms. Sagarika Bairagi is a Guest Lecturer of History attached to the JNRM, Port Blair.
Brief Introduction:

“Plead Guilty and ensure Lesser Sentence” is the shortest possible meaning of Plea Bargaining. The Concept of Plea Bargaining in India is just three years old. The Concept was introduced in India by means of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005. By this amendment, a new chapter that is Chapter XXI A has been introduced in the Cr.P.C.

History of Plea Bargaining:

Plea Bargaining fostered by the Indian Legislature is actually the sperm child of the West. The concept has been very much alive in the American System in the 19th century itself. Plea Bargaining is so common in the American System that every minute a case is disposed in the American Criminal Court by way of guilty plea. England, Wales, Australia and Victoria also recognizes plea bargaining. Every time we turn on to an American Cinema, we come across this concept.

Plea Bargaining: The Indian Version

Plea Bargaining can be defined as “Pre-Trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecution during which the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for certain concessions by the prosecution.”

The Supreme Court was very much against the concept of Plea Bargaining before its introduction. In State of Uttar Pradesh Vs Chandrika, the Supreme Court of India held that it is settled law that on the basis of Plea Bargaining court cannot dispose of the criminal cases. The court has to decide it on merits. If the accused confesses his guilt, even then appropriate sentence is required to be implemented. 

The Court further held in the same case that, mere acceptance or admission of the guilt should not be a ground for reduction of sentence, nor can the accused bargain with the court that as he is pleading guilty his sentence should be reduced.

Despite strict opposition by the Supreme Court, the Government found it comfortable to introduce this concept. Long list of pending cases before the Criminal courts was cited as the reason for the enactment of this provision. If a person accepts his guilt, then the time of the Prosecution is saved, which can be then properly utilized for proving more serious offences.

Plea Bargaining is applicable only in respect of those offences for which Punishment of Imprisonment is up to a period of 7 years. It does not apply where such offence affects the Socio-economic condition of the country or has been committed against women or committed against a child below the age of 14 years. 

The application for plea bargaining should be filed by the accused voluntarily before the court which is trying the offence. The complainant and the accused are then given time by the court to work out satisfactory disposition of the case. The court may reduce the sentence to 1/4th if the accused pleads guilty. There shall be no appeal in the case where judgment has been pronounced by the court on the basis of plea bargaining.

Drawbacks of Plea-Bargaining:

India is a country with lots of illiterate citizens who are unaware of their rights. There are people who don’t even know that they have a right to legal assistance when they stand before the court as an accused. The poor and illiterate citizens can be easily overpowered by the police and asked to plead guilty. This may convert the whole process of trial into “a drama”.  

The uneducated won’t even know that they have a far better chance of winning their case and be acquitted. Moreover, the officers in charge of the investigation may be tempted to enter into deals with the accused for monetary gains. If the plea bargaining application of the accused is rejected then the accused would find it very difficult to prove himself innocent.

The concept of Plea Bargaining has been introduced in India by seeing its success in America. The Law Makers in India have failed to take account of the fact that in America, Plea Bargaining was a practice even before it was introduced in the law. In India, the concept has been directly introduced as Law. The law makers even failed to notice the wide gap between the socio-economic conditions of U.S and India. The Government has also failed to update the people regarding this new amendment in the Criminal Law. The success or failure of this Concept in the Indian Context can only be judged when this baby concept becomes five or six years old.

* The author of this article is a LL.M Scholar from ‘Dr. Ambedkar Law College’, Puducherry-605 014. Xavier hails from Mayabunder in North Andaman. He is one of the few youth from the islands to take up Masters in Law. 

News Day, 17 April 2005

Thousands of tribal people died when the tsunami struck the Nicobar Islands last December. There remains no trace of their villages that once stood guarding the shoreline in the Bay of Bengal.

The surviving families cannot gather the courage to have a glimpse of the place where they had their homes. They have moved to relief camps in the higher lands, far, far away from the sea, where they never preferred to live. The heat is unbearable up there, as are the flies in the daylight and mosquitoes during the night.

Since they lost their coconut trees, canoes and pigs in the tsunami and, most important, their sets of tools, their lives have become miserable. The relief aid they are getting is not only proving to be useless, but it actually may threaten their way of life.

The first thing the Nicobarese need is tools, so they can begin to construct huts, dig canoes and make plantations. A set of tools is the most essential belonging of a Nicobari or, for that matter, for any indigenous community. But more than three months after the tsunami, they have received only 150 sets of tools for 2,000 surviving families, and these are of such poor quality that the tribals cannot use them.

Among the relief materials distributed in the Nicobars were "dhothi" for men and "sarees" for women (typical Indian dress made of one piece of cloth that drapes over the torso and legs). The Nicobarese haven't worn anything like this ever before and do not wish to. The men normally go bare-chested, and the women wear a blouse and a colorful, printed wraparound to cover below their waist. To the surprise of all the relief agencies, the Nicobarese have used these cloths to stitch mosquito nets.

The Indian government is constructing temporary shelters for the homeless tribals, who still are living in tents. It was announced that "seismic experts" in New Delhi have approved the shelters. Each has two rooms, a kitchen and an attached toilet. The roof and walls are made of galvanized iron sheets imported from India. But while government engineers measured the site for construction of the expert-approved houses in the open highlands, the Nicobarese were seen constructing their traditional huts inside the jungle, where it is shady, using the last of tools that survived the tsunami.

When I asked a Nicobari why he was busy constructing his hut, he replied, "Who would live in such houses? Let them construct it and do their duty, and we will do ours. Where shall we keep our pigs?"

The Nicobarese never live in closed houses with partitions. They prefer an open area to attend to nature's call rather than in a closed flush-out toilet. They have their huts on stilts, which not only are earthquake-resistant but also give them space to house their livestock.

All the while, in Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar island chain, hundreds of tribal members from Car Nicobar, evacuated after the tsunami, have a merry time. They are spending most of their relief money on booze. Bars and wine shops in Port Blair are flooded with Nicobarese. Indian Manufactured Foreign Liquor, IMFL as it is called, is scarce in their land, which India's government has declared a tribal reserve. They are fascinated by city life, and after such a long stay in the city, their eagerness to return to their land seems to be declining. Some are even looking for land in Port Blair so they can stay on.

To the list of all of the terrible damage done to the Nicobarese people in the tsunami, we can add this: On one hand, the tribals have been lost in a new world of the city dwellers, while on the other hand those who were lucky enough to stay back in their own land are at a loss to understand what is going on there.

The involvement of government and nongovernmental agencies cannot be avoided during natural calamities such as the tsunami. But did anyone consider what the tribals really need?

By Shaikh Azizur Rahman, Foreign Correspondent, THE NATIONAL
With additional reporting by Denis Giles, Editor, ANDAMAN CHRONICLE

Kolkata: Akhtar Hossain sat motionless on his hospital bed staring out at the sea, perhaps dwelling on how his dream to work in Malaysia had been shattered and wondering how he would now return home. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

As the doctor arrived at his bedside in the G B Pant hospital in Port Blair, capital of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, he regained his composure, but could not make sense of the questions he was being asked about his condition. “I do not understand,” he said.

Akhtar, an ethnic Rohingya from the south-eastern corner of Bangladesh, had been suffering from severe dehydration after drifting at sea for 14 days, without food and water for the 12, after being turned away from Thailand along with hundreds of other Rohingyas. He is now anxiously waiting to return to his village, Boroituli, in Bangladesh, where his parents, siblings and other relatives live.

“When he came here, with eight extremely dehydrated Rohingyas, Akhtar was half-dead and awfully traumatised. At night they sometimes screamed out. We kept food and water before them on the table, yet they shout out asking God for [food and water],” said a paramedic who was part of a team assigned to look after Akhtar.

The paramedic, who spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not permitted to speak to the media, said Akhtar and the seven Rohingyas were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, though the others had recovered and had been handed over to the Indian police.

“For the past two days Akhtar has been severely depressed and often breaks into tears, wanting to go back to his parents in Bangladesh,” the paramedic said.

More than 640 Rohingyas have landed on India’s Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Indonesia’s Aceh Province over the past month.

They say they were intercepted by Thai marines as they approached Thailand en route to Malaysia, where they planned to look for work, and accuse Thai authorities of torture and destroying the engines on their boats before turning them out to sea without food or water.

Recounting his story yesterday, Akhtar said that last month he, his 19-year-old friend Farid and 410 other Rohingyas from Bangladesh and Myanmar piled on to four boats and set sail from the Bangladeshi coastal village of Cox’s Bazar, with a dream to reach Malaysia, via Thailand, to join the illegal migrant workforce there.

Akhtar said the group originally believed they had been intercepted by Myanmar forces and were being taken to a Myanmar island.

They were taken to an island where they were held for about a week and were beaten severely, before the soldiers broke their engines and towed them out to sea, leaving them for dead, Akhtar said.

“The soldiers packed our 100-seater boat with 412 people and left us in the middle of the sea with 100 kilograms of rice and 200 litres of drinking water. From the second day we had no food or water.

“We did not know where to go. The senior boatmen told us it was impossible for us to return to Bangladesh by just paddling the crippled boats.

“Hungry and thirsty people were crying loudly begging relief from Allah. Many were beating their chests and crying. It was frightening. I was also crying and praying to Allah to somehow guide us back home,” said Akhtar.

“On the fourth day no-one had the energy to paddle. Some people were shouting, ‘Allah you are most powerful, our creator, please help us return to our families, we are in the middle of sea and we cannot drive our boat’.

“The sun was beating down. Some fell asleep and did not wake up the next morning. We found their bodies had turned stiff. Some senior people said the dead should not be on board because their sight would demoralise others. I saw four bodies being dumped before my eyes within the first five days. One man sitting next to me died leaning against me. I had to drop his body into the water. It was horrifying.

“I was terribly thirsty and hungry. Like some others, I tried to drink sea water, but it was too salty and gave a squirmy feeling down the throat.

“I counted up to six days, then I lost track of day and night. Sometimes I woke up and found the number of people on boat was reducing.

About a week later, Akhtar said, the group sighted an island in the distance
“Someone shouted, ‘Allah, you have brought the land to us after 14 days. But you have already taken the lives of my brother and a hundred others’.

“People began jumping into the water and swimming towards the island. I was terribly hungry and thirsty and I had no energy. But still I began swimming with the others.

“Despite being a good swimmer, I had no strength to swim after some time. My muscles were dead. I just kept floating, as many did. Later in the day I was rescued [by Indian Coast Guard] from the water.”

One Rohingya man who was on Akhtar’s boat reached the Hut Bay Island by swimming 16km, possibly more, according to local police, before being spotted by local authorities who immediately alerted the Coastguard. They pulled another 102 people from the water.

While police found five bodies, they believe 309 of the original group of 412 perished in the sea, either while drifting on the boat or when trying to swim to the shore. Some believe sharks might have killed some of them.

Akhtar’s friend Farid was among the dead. “I had no idea that the journey to Malaysia could be so dangerous. I hope the Indian government will send me to Bangladesh soon. I shall work in Bangladesh now and never venture to go to Malaysia again,” Akhtar said.

“More than three-quarters of us died. Allah has kept me alive. It’s a miracle to me. I have to live the rest of my life as a good Muslim. Allah will definitely help me in Bangladesh.”


Los Angeles Times: January 05, 2005

The grimy 10-rupee bill is worth 25 cents. It has been folded several times so that it’s small enough to hide in the clenched fist of a 3-year-old girl.

Sitalakshmi won’t let go of it. For more than a week now, since the day of the killer waves, she has held the pittance tight in her tiny hand, as if her life depends on it.

The girl’s mother gave it to her on the morning of Dec. 26 to keep her from crying. It was the last time she would soothe her daughter that way. Now the greasy banknote has become the child’s hold on the way things used to be.

“She even sleeps with it,” said Sister Neeta George, one of the nuns who run the basement orphanage where Sitalakshmi lives in the Missionaries of Charity convent, founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The waves that hammered India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands killed the girl’s mother, father and three of her brothers.

Only she and her 14-year-old brother, Balamurugan Kannan, survived.

With the courage of a man, a boy not much taller than 4 feet and weighing less than 80 pounds swept his little sister up in his arms and ran hard for higher ground.

His mother and father and three older brothers couldn’t outrun the waves. Like most of those killed here in the Andaman archipelago, about 700 miles east of the Indian mainland, their bodies may never be found.

India’s government has confirmed that more than 800 people died in the islands, and 5,681 are still missing and presumed dead. Local residents say the death toll is much higher.

In several southern Asian countries devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, orphaned children are among the most traumatized. Many come from seaside fishing villages, where the waves killed not only their parents but members of their extended families.

So they must turn to neighbors, or even total strangers, for help, protection and psychological support. They can easily be victimized again. Recovery efforts are just beginning, and orphaned children are already targets for abuse, warns UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency.

In recent days, UNICEF has confirmed at least one case of traffickers smuggling a child out of Aceh province on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra, the area hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

Indonesian authorities are investigating reports that traffickers have targeted dozens more children. A message transmitted to cellphone users in the region offered 300 Aceh orphans for sale, UNICEF says.

In an effort to prevent such trafficking, the Indonesian government has banned children under 16 from leaving Aceh without their parents.

On Monday, UNICEF appealed for $81 million in donations to help an estimated 1.5 million children affected by the Dec. 26 catastrophe, many of whom the U.N. says are orphans or children separated from their families.

Balamurugan and his family lived in a fishing village about 100 yards from the sea on the island of Katchal, a few hundred miles south of Port Blair. He was at a shop buying a bandage for his mother’s hand when the earthquake struck.

“I picked it up, and just as I was coming out of the shop, it started shaking violently,” Balamurugan recalled Tuesday. “I took shelter in a shop nearby. Everything was crumbling down around me. There was a crack in the ground, and I could see water coming out from the ground. I got very scared.”

When the ground was still again, the boy ran home. He saw his parents standing outside their house. Balamurugan shouted at his mother to stay outside while he went for his little sister, who, in the panic, had ended up at a neighbor’s house several hundred yards away.

The boy couldn’t find his sister at the first house. After he grabbed her from a second house and ran for home, the first tsunami wave struck, swamping the beach. Balamurugan barely had time to run for higher ground as the ocean swallowed the rest of his family.

He carried his sister for five hours as he climbed with other survivors to a camp near a rubber plantation. They were rescued by a government-owned passenger ship, the M.V. Sentinel, early on the afternoon of Dec. 28.

After a 28-hour voyage, the vessel delivered them on New Year’s Day to Port Blair, the islands’ main town. Balamurugan eats and sleeps here on tent canvas spread out on the front lawn of a boys’ high school.

More than 45 survivors from his island, where all but two villages were destroyed, live in the same schoolyard, sharing the same hard ground. Their only cover is a rainbow-colored canopy normally rented out to wedding parties.

Each day, he visits his sister at the convent, where she lives with other orphaned girls. She is lost without her brother and often wakes up at night calling for him.

On her worst night, the nuns sedated the girl with a few grains of a sleeping tablet.

“We gave it to her only once – otherwise it would affect her – just to get over the shock,” Sister Neeta said.

The nuns hope someone will adopt brother and sister, preferably an Indian family so they can grow up close to their roots. Also, Indian law and bureaucracy make it difficult for foreigners to adopt children.

“We usually keep children for three months and try for their adoption,” Sister Neeta added. “If they do not get adopted, then we take custody and educate them. After they grow up, we marry them off, if they’re girls, or buy them land if they are boys.”

Denis Giles is the Port Blair volunteer who spotted the two children on Katchal standing alone as a crowd of evacuees fled the island. He and his friends bought two dresses for Sitalakshmi, one with a ruffled pink top and red rosettes. Her brother got pants and T-shirts, one a bright yellow tourist souvenir of what was once a tropical paradise.

Brother and sister both got a bath and all the candies they wanted before Giles, 28, dropped them off at the convent, the place he trusted most.

Giles said Port Blair’s Catholic bishop assured him that the children would get a free education. When he recalled saying goodbye to Balamurugan the first night at the convent door, Giles choked up.

“While we were leaving, the boy started crying for the first time,” he said. “During the entire trip from Katchal to Port Blair he didn’t cry.

“Me and all my friends came and hugged him and said, ‘We will visit you whenever you want.’ ”